Latest DreamBank News
Oct 5, 2020
How American Family’s DreamBank Is Connecting Community, Fueling Dreams Sponsored Content/ This article is sponsored by Shaw Industries . Natalie Healy — American Family Insurance DreamBank Manager — provides insight into how the company is fostering community both in a special physical space and online, supporting a community of dreamers pursuing their passions. Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family InsuranceGroup has been selling auto,homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance for nearly 100 years.Building on that long tradition, in 2012, the company opened DreamBank — a spacedesigned to help dreamers find inspiration, tools and support to bring theirdreams to life. In a recent interview, Natalie Healy — American Family Insurance DreamBankManager — provides insight into how the company is fostering community both in aspecial physical space and online, supporting a community of dreamers pursuingtheir passions. Natalie Healy: Our mission at American Family Insurance is to inspire,protect and restore dreams. We wanted to change the conversation aroundinsurance, to reframe the narrative about the role an insurance company plays inpeople’s lives. Our efforts started with a study in which we asked if peoplestill believe in the Americandream . One of the most significant findings was that dreamers — people who are strivingto pursue a passion and make a better life for themselves and their families andtheir communities — are happier, healthier and have fewer regrets in life. So,we asked ourselves — as an insurance company, how could we help more peoplepursue their dreams? To differentiate ourselves in a crowded insurance market,we decided to be the champion of dreams. We know we can’t be the expert in everysingle dream pursuit, because dreams are as unique as the dreamer, but we can bethe experts in removing obstacles and barriers for those dreamers. So, we built a physical space and dedicated it to dream pursuit. It’s a placewhere people can learn and gather — where you can discover what your dream is,what the steps are and connect with other people. That’s really been part of themagic and the secret — it’s a place where people can be together. How has the current environment impacted your efforts? What’s changed? NH: We’ve completely reimagined our content-delivery strategy. We decided tostart streaming events and so everything is online. We started using FB Live,doing virtual book clubs and partnering with people from all over the country. That turned out to be one of the coolest silver linings in this situationbecause we were no longer focused on the brick-and-mortar space in Madison,Wisconsin. We were able to scale and deliver these branded experiences wellbeyond our tight-knit community here. We have seen people from inside andoutside of our operating territory tuning in for these events and watchingspeakers, learning and then taking those learnings back to their communities.It’s been this beautiful ripple effect in the time of COVID. What have been keys to success — internally and externally? What allowed this idea to really resonate within the company and the community? NH: Part of the key to success is that we have been in a constant two-waydialogue with our community members. We have been asking, what is your dream,what do you need to pursue it, what message do you have to offer the world? Andthen doing something about it. We have been collecting those nuggets ofinformation and inspiration, and making these things come to life. So, it’s thetwo-way dialogue we have had with our community members. Internally, I am continually impressed by the action American Family takes todemonstrate what we believe. Spark [a building dedicated to innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship inMadison, Wisconsin] is just a beautiful testament to that. We have built anddedicated a building to sustainability, to dream pursuit, to social impact, toinnovation and to digital transformation. Another point is accessibility. You can just walk into the building andexperience what Spark is about, what DreamBank is about and what our company isabout. Most places have headquarters, where you can’t get in or where you needidentification or a badge. But with Spark, we truly open our arms and doors toanyone who wants to come and experience what we have. How did you communicate to the community that DreamBank was an open space? What was the reaction in the early days? NH: I have been lucky enough to have witnessed the evolution andtransformation over time. When we first opened DreamBank in 2012, we were metwith a lot of apprehension. People were questioning us — asking, why would youdo this? Why are you here? What’s the catch? Where’s the cold call? We had to be very intentional and authentic with our engagements. At thebeginning, it was a lot of networking, walking around the square. Then westarted harnessing the power of our speakers and our employees — and theirnetworks. We gave hundreds of tours; and slowly, people started understandingwhat we were doing and why we were there. So, it was really an organic growth. Can you tell us more about some of the challenges you have faced along the way? Are there lessons that you can share with others that are trying to have a similar community impact? NH: When I say that American Family has committed to this, I mean that in somany ways. One of the key ways is that we took this risk by saying we are goingto build a DreamBank and it’s all going to be free. We are going to invitepeople to be a part of it — and hopefully, it raises brand awareness on a trulypersonal level. And we didn’t pull the plug on it. We have continued this investment over time and we call our ROI “return oninspiration,” because it’s really hard for us to say this is how we contributedto the bottom line. But our company’s leadership sees the inherent value thatour team and our content provide the community, and how that goodwill and thegood feelings that people get about our company experiencing DreamBank hasreally withstood the test of time. When we opened DreamBank in Spark, wequadrupled in size; and now we are going to be building a DreamBank location inMilwaukee. It goes back to the company culture that we all live as employees; and infusedthrough our community outreach, including DreamBank — as well as the AmericanFamily Insurance Institute for Corporate and SocialImpact , which runs out of Spark and is aseparate public benefit corporation dedicated to closing equity gaps inAmerica . Since you opened DreamBank in 2012, have there been pivotal moments? NH: Right at the beginning, I had to explain what DreamBank was because noone had any context or awareness of it. I remember about 9 to 10 months in, Istarted hearing people respond that they had heard of it or that their coworkerswere going to an event there. People started to get it. Then, we startedexperiencing vocal brand advocates. Word of mouth was powerful and the speakers we were bringing in that wereleveraging their networks turned out to be huge for us. People inherently trustthem and we were giving them a platform. We had so many first-time speakerslaunch their dreams at DreamBank. They had never spoken publicly before, and nowthey are running businesses and are so successful. We have embraced continuous evolution and been intentional about decisions wehave made on where we expand. That’s particularly true now in the digital space,where we can scale and deliver so far beyond the brick-and-mortar spaces andconnect with so many more people. What was the decision-making process, designing the space in Spark — how did sustainability play into that process? NH: We wanted to have a presence in downtown Madison, and to design andconstruct a building that is as sustainable as we can possibly make it. Werecognize that climate change really impacts, and is a risk to our customers andour communities. We wanted to do our part when we designed and constructed thisand our other facilities. We wanted Spark to be a 100-year investment to the city and our community, sothe building materials and the interior have to sustain the test of time. Walking people through each floor of Spark, you can show people how the buildingworks — where we are collecting rainwater so we aren’t using the city’s tapwater line. Here are the real plants that provide clean air for people tobreathe, and this Patcraft carpet tile was selected because it’s Cradle toCradleCertified .It has been evaluated for material health and can be recycled when it’s time tobe replaced. Spark is a living example — you are walking through thesustainability story as you’re walking through Spark. This article is one in a series of articles recognizing 10 diverseorganizations intently focused on products and initiatives that support thewellbeing of people and the planet, as part of Shaw’s sustain[HUMAN]ability™recognitionprogram . Toread more about the other organizations recognized by Shaw for theirefforts, visit the landing page for this blogseries .